Strikers ask state to honour promise

June 8, 2001

The Nigerian government has ordered vice-chancellors to re-open universities on June 11, which will in effect end a nine-week strike by academics over the implementation of a pay agreement.

The Academic Staff Union of Universities is demanding that the government honour agreements reached in December.

Dipo Fashina, the union's national president, said: "The agreement provides funding to equip laboratories, build adequate libraries and provide academic and social conditions conducive to living and learning on campus. It will not only help retain academics but encourage the best graduates to join the profession."

Union demands include increasing the proportion of the country's national budget devoted to education at all levels to 26 per cent, in line with Unesco criteria.

Christina Akpan, chemistry lecturer at the University of Calabar, said:

"Nigeria's petro-dollars should be spent on formal education at all levels... This agreement provides for a phased approach to the improvement of the salaries of academics, restoration and rehabilitation of academic facilities so as to attract back to Nigeria most academics who left as a result of dissatisfaction with their conditions of service."

Education minister Ayo Aborishade declared that there should be another round of negotiations because the government could not spend so much of its resources on one sector alone.

Dr Fashina said: "The government does not want to sign and implement the agreement because the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have warned it not to accede to our demands."

Students are complaining about the impact of the strike amid fears that those hoping to enter postgraduate schools next October in Europe and North America may miss their opportunity and be asked to wait for another year.

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